Protesters of a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood are planning to force blood centers to turn them away nationwide Friday.
The protesters are targeting a 1977 Food and Drug Administration guideline that states men who have sex with men are banned from donating blood for life.
At the Nashville Red Cross on Charlotte Avenue, a mobile HIV testing site is set up behind the building where people can be tested for HIV using a rapid test.
Results are available in 20 minutes and if the person tests negative for HIV they can then go to the Red Cross and attempt to donate blood.
Friday's nationwide Gay Blood Drive protest is expected to result in thousands of men being turned away from blood centers at a time of year when many blood centers need donations.
The protesters want blood donation restrictions to be based on each individuals risk based on behaviors not solely on sexual orientation.
“It is discrimination,” Nashville Gay Blood Drive Point person Dakerri Barber-Rhone said. “It should not be based on your sexual orientation it should be based on your sexual behavior.”
Barber-Rhone pointed out that heterosexual men and women can also have HIV but they are not automatically excluded from giving blood.
All blood is screened after it is donated for seven blood borne diseases including HIV and hepatitis.
“It is ridiculous to say just because you are with a male same sex partner that you are more likely to have HIV than someone else,” Barber-Rhone said.
The Red Cross said in a joint statement with America's Blood Centers that it supports changing the restriction, but until the FDA lifts the ban, they cannot allow men who have sex with men to donate blood.
“We strongly support the use of rational, scientifically-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donors who engage in similar risk activities,” the statement said. “Maintaining a safe and available blood supply continues to be our highest priority.”
Canada lifted a similar lifetime ban of gay and bisexual men donating blood in June.